Instant hot chocolate

Posted in dairy, frugal living, recipe, sugar on December 2nd, 2017 by stuart — Be the first to comment!

Hot chocolate comes in two varieties: the ones worth drinking, and the ones that you can afford.

With 4 simple ingredients you most likely already have in your pantry, you can make your own!

3 cups dried non-fat milk powder
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup baking cocoa
1/2 tsp salt

Shake ingredients thoroughly to completely incorporate. Add 1/4 cup of the mix to 1 cup of boiling water and stir. Instant hot chocolate.

This mix makes a little over a quart of instant hot chocolate powder. The extra mix over the quart? Well… you need to taste test it, don’t you 🙂

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Clotted Cream

Posted in basic principles, British food, dairy, recipe on March 30th, 2017 by stuart — 4 Comments

Scones without clotted cream just aren’t the full shilling. That’s a fact.

Unless you are in the British Commonwealth, however, getting your hands on clotted cream is somewhat of a challenge. Finding clotted cream at a reasonable price is even more so.

Just before you go to bed one night, take 1 pint whipping cream and pour it into a baking dish. Place the baking dish in your oven which is set to a very low temperature: 180F, 80C.

When you wake up in the morning, switch off the oven, take out the baking dish, and allow your now freshly clotted cream to cool down slightly. Carefully and gently transfer to a secure container, lid up the container, and refrigerate. Total time in the warm oven should be around 10 to 12 hours.

You may have some liquid cream under the clotted. This is normal, so don’t worry about it if you do. It is still edible, and may well be a delicious experiment if you drink that heathen beverage, coffee (ducks for cover!).

Enjoy your clotted cream on your treacle scones which have also been spread with some lovely home made jam. Serve with a nice strong cup of tea!

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Treacle Scones

Posted in British food, recipe on March 27th, 2017 by stuart — Be the first to comment!

Now that you have made some delicious treacle – you have made some treacle, right? – it’s time to make something delicious with it.


British scones are different from American scones. They are dryer than American scones, due to the way they are presented: British scones make up for the lack of fat in their ingredients by all the clotted cream you add when you serve them.

  • 200g / 7oz / 1 2/3rd cups all purpose (plain) flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon mixed spice (pumpkin pie spice)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 50g / 1/2 stick softened butter
  • 1/4 cup treacle
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • Add all the dry ingredients to a bowl and stir to mix. Cut in the butter and mix until the dough looks like bread crumbs. Pour in whichever treacle you prefer (golden or dark – we prefer dark…) and stir gently to combine. Pour in most of the milk and stir, adding in the reserved milk if you need it to make the dough just come together – the dough may feel slightly dry, but should hold its shape without falling apart.

    Lightly flour your counter top and turn out the dough. Shape it with your hand until it is a square shape roughly an inch thick. Cut out with your favourite cookie cutter. Place scones on a lined baking tray and cook in a 400F / 200C oven for 10 to 12 minutes until the top is lightly browned.

    Place on a cookie rack to cool slightly. Split in half along the natural break line, then cover one half with clotted cream* and the other half with some nice, low-sugar home made jam.


    * don’t worry, I will tell you how to make clotted cream, too!

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    Posted in British food, sugar, syrups on March 24th, 2017 by stuart — Be the first to comment!

    In British cooking, “treacle” is a general reference to sugar syrups. In theory, molasses and corn syrup could be considered “treacle”, but in realistic terms it refers to Lyle’s Golden Syrup or their Dark Treacle.

    One problem is that Lyle’s Golden Syrup is achingly expensive in the USA, and dark treacle is basically unheard of. (Many recipes will suggest substituting molasses for black treacle. This will work on the science of cooking, but not at the flavour level: dark treacle is different to molasses.)

    As usual, the answer is “make it yourself”.. but you wouldn’t be here if that wasn’t an option, would you 🙂

    Here I will show you how to make both Golden Syrup and Dark Treacle. The only difference is in the technique.


  • 200g / 7oz sugar
  • 60ml / 1/4 cup water
  • 600ml / 1.25 US pint boiling water
  • 1kg / 2.2lbs sugar
  • 1/4 lemon / 1.5tbsp lemon juice
  • Get a deep pot and put the first two ingredients into it. Apply medium low heat and use a candy thermometer to track the temperature until it hits “hard crack”, 150C/300F. You do not need to stir this mixture, it will take care of itself.

    Once the syrup hits the target temperature take it off the heat, remove the thermometer, and add 600ml / 1.25 US pints boiling water slowly, stirring all the while as the water will boil up. Once all the water is added, add 1 kg / 2.2lb of sugar and 1/4 of a lemon (or 1.5 tablespoons bottled lemon juice), squeezing the lemon into the pot before you drop the wedge into the pot.

    Bring the syrup back to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 45 minutes. After that, allow the syrup to cool slightly and strain the lemon bits through a sieve into hot mason jars. One batch should make about 1 quart of golden syrup.


  • 200g / 7oz sugar
  • 60ml / 1/4 cup water
  • 500g / 1.1lbs sugar
  • 250ml / 1 cup boiling water
  • 1/4 lemon / 1.5tbsp lemon juice
  • Welcome to Golden Syrup’s evil brother, Dark Treacle (cue thunder).

    You start the same as Golden, with the first two ingredients into the deep pot. You will not need the thermometer as we are going way beyond the point most candy thermometers can go!

    Apply medium low heat and watch the sugar solution. You will need to watch carefully, because you are going to basically burn all this sugar. Keep watching and smelling as the solution goes through the colour stages, from golden to brown to mahogany almost all the way to black. You will see smoke coming off the sugar, which is the point at which your nerves will start to twitch: you need to get ALL this sugar solution to black, while stopping short of a fire in the pot!

    Once the starter solution is jet black, take it off the heat.


    Allow the boiling syrup to cool down slightly for a minute or two, then add 500g / 1.1lb of sugar. The sugar syrup will want to seize up, but this is OK. Now add 250ml / 1 cup of boiling water and, as before, squeeze 1/4 of a lemon OR add 1.5 tbsp lemon juice to the mix. Bring the dark mess to a boil then reduce to a simmer for between 30 and 45 minutes.

    This is where the technique gets tricky. With the dark molasses, you will need to test the syrup with the jam test: take a small amount of the treacle (a teaspoon) and drop it onto a very cold plate or saucepan lid. Once it has cooled down, give the treacle a poke with the spoon: if it’s too liquid, it needs more cooking. If it’s too thick (sets solid) add about 1/4 cup boiling water, stir well to integrate, then do the test again.

    How can you tell if the consistency is right? It should be about the same texture as corn syrup: thick and syrupy, but not set solid.

    Once you have made Golden and Dark syrups, what can you do with them? Well, they both go great on pancakes… but I have a better use for them. Watch this space!

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    Brown Sauce

    Posted in British food, recipe on March 17th, 2017 by stuart — Be the first to comment!

    If you’ve ever visited the UK you will have seen – and probably eaten – brown sauce, AKA HP Sauce, and enjoyed the sweet, tangy, fruity goodness. If you see it on the shelves in the US your eyes have probably bled at the price.

    Well, here you go: home made brown sauce. Unlike the commercial version, however, this does not involve high fructose corn syrup, preservatives, or unpronounceable ingredients. The final sauce is shelf stable for weeks, assuming it lasts that long!

  • 1/2 lb / 250g of Prunes
  • 4 large Granny Smiths apples
  • 1 medium onion
  • 13oz / 375g of sugar
  • 1/4 of a cup of salt (about 70g or 2.5oz)
  • 1 1/2 pints / 900ml of malt vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon of ginger
  • 1/2 a teaspoon of allspice
  • 1/2 a teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 of a teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
  • Core and dice the apples, skin on. Dice the onion. Coarsely chop the prunes. Add all the ingredients to a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, then put the lid on the saucepan and simmer gently until all the fruit is tender.

    Once cooked, take the sauce off the heat and allow to cool down slightly before you blend until smooth with your stick blender (or in your food processor).

    Put the sauce back over medium heat until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes.

    Put the blended sauce into jars or bottles and allow to mature for a week or so, then serve liberally with your bangers, burgers, or cheese sandwiches!

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    Making breakfast – bangers

    Posted in bangers, British food on March 17th, 2017 by stuart — Be the first to comment!

    What would breakfast be without bangers? To make this recipe you will need a food mixer with grinder and sausage stuffing attachment. If you can’t stuff the sausage casings you can still make sausage meat in your food processor and have it as sausage patties.


  • 9lbs lean pork
  • 3lbs fatback or similar
  • 2.5lbs rusk
  • 7 cups water
  • 3.5oz salt
  • 1oz white pepper
  • 0.75oz mace
  • 0.5oz ground ginger
  • 0.25oz sage
  • Cut rusk into large cubes and soak in the water. Prepare casings. Run pork and fat through coarse setting on grinder. Squeeze out excess water from rusk, thoroughly blend it and other ingredients together. Grind mixture through fine setting, then stuff into casings. Hang in a cold place (or refrigerate) for 24 hours before serving to allow all ingredients to thoroughly integrate.

    I like to make a large batch of the banger seasoning and decant as needed. I also like to double the seasoning rate, except for the salt: for example, make a batch of seasoning with 10oz white pepper, 7/5oz mace, 5oz ground ginger, 2.5oz mace, and 17.5 oz salt, then double the ratio of seasonings: using this recipe, there is a 2.6% seasoning ratio. If you bump that up to 5% you will have a much more noticeable contribution from the seasonings without it becoming salty.

    Once you make them yourself you will never look back at store bought sausages!

    Note: yes, you can make amazing sausages with this recipe without using the rusk. Just don’t call them “bangers” if you do so!

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    Making breakfast – rusk

    Posted in bangers, British food on January 27th, 2017 by stuart — Be the first to comment!

    One of the more important ingredients for a British breakfast is rusk.

    What, you’ve never heard of it? That’s because you most likely have never eaten it! It’s an ingredient in bangers which helps them achieve that certain mouthfeel. Without rusk you can make great sausages… just they won’t be bangers.


  • 1 lb (450 g) all purpose (plain) flour or bread (strong) flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 5 tsp (25 ml) double acting baking powder
  • 6 ½ – 8 ¾ fl oz (185 -250 ml) water
  • Method
    Preheat oven to 450 °F (230 °C)
    Sieve the flour, salt and double acting baking powder together. Add just enough water to make a smooth, pliable dough. Roll out lightly to approximately ½” (12 mm) thick then place on a lightly greased tray. Place in oven on the middle shelf and bake for 10 minutes at 450 °F (230 °C)

    Remove from the oven and using the tines of a fork split in half along its thickness. Place back on tray with the opened faces upwards. Reduce the heat to 375 °F (190 °C) and bake for a further 10 minutes or until dry.

    Remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack. Store in airtight container and use as required

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    Making breakfast

    Posted in British food, information on January 21st, 2017 by stuart — Be the first to comment!

    One of my weekend pleasures used to be having a sausage sandwich (bangers with brown sauce or ketchup) for brunch.

    One of the downsides of moving to another country is the lack of the stuff you are used to. Brown sauce, if it is available, tends to be ridiculously expensive. Bangers are eye wateringly expensive. Bread is good, or cheap.

    Part of what motivated me to start this blog in the first place was the very issue of availability, or lack thereof, of things I wanted to eat.

    So the next few posts will be “making breakfast”. Hold on to your hat, it’s going to be an interesting ride!

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    Low Sugar Jam

    Here in Alabama, u-pick is really coming into its own. Today we picked nearly 2 gallons of blueberries at an awesome local farm (Bear Mountain) that grows its berries according to organic principles (that means, they haven’t paid the federal government for the privilege of the “certified organic” label!)

    But you only really get the benefit of the full awesome flavour and colour of fresh, seasonal fruit if you avoid cooking them into oblivion, which you will with conventional pectin.

    This is why I always, and only, recommend Pomona’s Universal Pectin (Amazon link). Unlike conventional pectin you can make jam with NO added sugar, or with alternative sweeteners such as honey or maple syrup.

    Once you go Pomona’s you will never go back to adding more sugar than fruit to your preserves!

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    Posted in information on September 22nd, 2015 by stuart — Be the first to comment!

    I was mulling over my laughably cheap hummus recipe with peanut butter substituting for tahini.

    The biggest single cost for making home made hummus is most likely the tahini, hence substituting peanut butter. But what if you could make tahini at home, at a laughably cheap price? Is that possible? And how difficult is it to do?

    While I was out and about this morning I went to our local Chinese supermarket this morning, and discovered a little treasure trove of sesame seeds. Black seeds, toasted, or plain, and with a choice of packaging, to boot.

    Packaging makes a surprising difference, though. 9.5oz plain sesame seeds in a plastic jar, $3.99. Same seeds in a 7oz plastic bag? $1.49.

    Tahini bought in a local store? $4.99 for 16oz. We are on to a good start with 14oz for $2.98, making it $3.40 per pound, or roughly a third cheaper.

    How hard is it to make tahini? Not very, according to this recipe.

    So there you have it: if you want to, or need to for health reasons, you can make healthy home made hummus with tahini. It’ll be more expensive than making it with peanut butter, but still an awful lot cheaper than buying hummus off the shelf

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